For the price of a designer sandwich on South Beach you can get an entire meal (dessert included) at Here Comes the Sun, one of South Florida's original health food stores. Between the hours of 4:00 and 6:30 p.m., hundreds of bargain-conscious diners come for the $7.95 special, which buys a choice of about a dozen entrées, soup or salad, coffee or tea, and a small frozen yogurt (three flavors are offered daily so that regulars don't get bored). We especially like the blackened grouper, the vegetarian lasagna and the eggplant casserole, or, for a dollar more, a meaty and moist salmon fillet. Don't be turned off by the health food designation; it's real food cooked to order with plenty of cheesy, starchy extras on the side if you want.
"I make it just like my mom makes it," Alex Richter says. "In Germany we eat a lot of potatoes." They're boiled, strained, and then hand-mashed with a wooden mallet. Then the Munich native adds salt, pepper, butter, milk, and, the special ingredient, nutmeg. It's all topped off with fresh parsley and a little red pepper. "Sometimes when you eat them, they have lumps," Richter explains. "That's how you know they are handmade." What we know is they are delicious, enhanced by that slice of spice. Beer's good, too. Extra cheer comes from the perennial Christmas lights and schmaltzy German folk music -- kitsch is a German concept as well.
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines gestalt as "a structure, configuration, or pattern ... so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable from its parts in summation." Whew, what a mouthful! Here's a simpler definition: the Mozart Stube experience. Everything gels here, from the quaint setting, the Viennese waltzes playing over the sound system and the good-humored service to the sumptuous Austro-German cuisine. Emphasis on that last factor: The salmon fillet in a Riesling cream sauce is superb, the schweinebraten (roast pork) succulent, the bratwurst as mild as a cocktail frank. Proprietor Harald Neuweg also uses his eatery to host events and festivals, including Blues at the Stube, Venison Week, and Schnitzel Month. Neuweg's newest restaurant, a jazz club called Satchmo, opened recently. If it's anything like his stube, it'll be good gestalt.
Forget grouper sandwiches. In the Keys they're as common as drunken fishermen and usually as boring. Offering a break in the culinary monotony along the southern stretch of U.S 1 is Steve Ehler's Time Out Barbecue, a roadside attraction that serves up some of the smokiest and most tender barbecue in South Florida. The secret, Steve explains, is in the slow-cooking: more than ten hours. Our favorite, the melt-in-your-mouth shredded pork sandwich, is served on a hamburger bun and is topped off with delicious, not too-creamy coleslaw and sweet baked beans for about four dollars. Chicken and rib platters big enough for two go for about $11. Time Out Barbecue has moved from the white lunch wagon with a pig on the side to an indoor structure, and Steve is smoking seven days per week from 11:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m., rain or shine.
Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House
Their Reuben is to die for! The smoked whitefish platter, geshmak! Tongue, brisket, liverwurst, chicken salad, gefilte fish, and stuffed cabbage taste as though they came straight from Second Avenue. And if you haven't tried the borscht, what are you waiting for? You want it to get up and walk over to your house? It's not like there's no room for you. Rascal House can seat 450 people in big cushy booths or at the counters. On busy nights (okay, almost every night), there's a line. But what's the rush? The line moves fast enough. It's cheap -- sandwiches big enough for two go for anywhere from $6.25 for chopped liver to $9.95 for one of the fancy combos. Full dinners start at $6 and can go as high as $19, for hotshots who want a New York strip steak. Plus it's open around the clock. And if a deli doesn't have bobka, Jell-O, and Dr. Brown's soda, it ain't a deli in our book. Don't worry. They got it. They got it.
According to tradition sushi chefs are supposed to clap their hands twice and say, "Happy sushi!" before molding the vinegared rice and topping it with expertly sliced fish. That way the good spirit with which they make the sushi transfers to the diner, who enjoys the Zen of a whole and wholesome eating experience. Well these folks must be clapping their hands all day long because it's impossible for sushi fanatics to discount this tiny, sponge-painted Surfside joint. Not only is the raw tuna the tenderest around, the salmon soft as flannel, the yellowtail mild, but the sushi chefs happily greet anyone who walks through the door. Clap clap to this fishmonger.
There's plenty of good microbrewed beer around Miami; at the newly opened Titanic Brewery near the University of Miami; the tourist hot-spot of South Beach, the Clevelander; even at the chain restaurant Hops, in the Falls. If you don't like to go to bars, just pick up a six-pack of our very own Hurricane Reef or Firehouse Four at any number of locations throughout South Florida. But the Abbey combines the best of both worlds, offering a fluctuating menu of tasty microbrews in a casual pub setting. Try the Indian Pale Ale, Swartz Larger, Abbey Brown, or any one of their seasonal selections, and home just might seem as close as the nearest tap.

Best Restaurant To Die In The Past Twelve Months

Karli's

Under other circumstances, this place might have been awarded "Best German Restaurant." But despite splendid schnitzel and sumptuous strudel, chef-owner Karl Zoisl closed the doors after a brief six-month run. Primarily a caterer, Zoisl found the restaurant too time-consuming. 'Course, clients can still find him at his company called, appropriately enough, Karl's Catering (305-829-5607). Whatever. Doesn't stop us from wanting to shout out our disappointment: Karli! You coulda been a contender!

Creative cuisine is a Nemo hallmark, but if you're like a lot of adoring customers, you may forget that the desserts here are as much masterpieces as everything else on the menu. Forgo that last mouthful of sea bass if you have to, but try not to miss dessert. Especially exquisite: the tangerine-cardamom crème brûlée (with pistachio baklava on the side). The key lime cheesecake flan topped with blueberry-blood orange salsa is another pairing made in paradise. And then there are the chocolate concoctions, each one an inspiration: chocolate-peanut butter-banana torte; guava ice cream atop Caribbean chocolate-macadamia truffle cake; and the star of the dessert menu, Symphony of Chocolate, a half-dozen different desserts grouped on a plate like chocolate jungle gyms and seesaws on a playground. The symphony notes vary sometimes, but they'll generally include a brûlée, cake, tart, and a few variations on a cheesecake theme. All original, all beautiful to see and savor. Bonus: Nemo's Sunday brunch buffet features various cakes and tarts you don't get on the regular menu, plus pastries and breads so divine you'll be singing Nemo's praises.

Cheesecake Factory

Best Restaurant When Someone Else Is Paying

Hamiltons

The Forge
billwisserphoto.com
You might think that restaurateur George Hamilton would overcook his meats the way he does his face. But that would be an urban legend. Not only does Hamiltons provide a terrifically tender rack of lamb and succulent duck, he "auto-bronzes" his face with a self-tanner that he developed and sells at the restaurant. And if you look solely at the entrée prices, which top out at about $30, the coddling experience at this handsome supper club might not seem that pricey. Another myth. Here's the truth: It's the padding that counts here -- appetizers no less than $12, desserts a tenspot. Add on a martini and a cigar from Hamilton's own line and you're looking at a meal that costs, if you like to come by a tan the natural, skin-cancerous way, as much as a one-way ticket to the islands.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®